Sonic Mania is the natural continuation of the original 2D Sonic games from yesteryear. As the internet’s going crazy for the game let’s cut straight to it.
Is the hype and excitement warranted?
If you grew up with fond memories of classic Sonic, you will derive much pleasure from this game.
I knew I’d like a proper old-fashioned Sonic. I know you’d like it too. But what about the ordinary 18 year old. What if she had no previous knowledge of the rad supercool blue hedgehog? Let’s subject her to a tame experiment as we are blinded by tasty, tasty nostalgia.
How does Sonic Mania fare for a brand new audience?
The results are coming in now: –
This is a game I could play for hours, when I’m in the right mood. It’s great… though… it’s annoying as fuck when you die.
How does Sonic compare to something a lil’ fresher? As a further test I threw on modern platformer Rayman Legends.
She preferred Rayman, but not by much. It held her interest a little longer as there was more to do.
Shockingly, Sonic is a hit with the youth of today. Erm.. The one youth of today. For a spell… until the lure of social media distracted her. Anyway, enough of this nonsense… let’s return to a more distinguished audience.
So many Sonic games… so many failures… so how did Sonic Mania succeed?
The level design is better then the original games. Now there is a caveat to this, most of the levels are remixes of the original games, but despite my hazy memory, it feels completely fresh. They’ve absolutely nailed what made Sonic fun. Whilst Sonic’s speed was a selling point, it never just about being fast. It wasn’t just about excitable loop-de-loops. Beyond the early stages, you had to earn such excitement with pragmatic platforming. Speed was a thrill and the levels reflected this ideal. Due to the size of the levels and multiple paths, you were often rewarded for breaking the loop. Sonic rewarded an investigative mindset and repeat playthroughs were encouraged. Thankfully, Sonic Mania does one better than the original games, as we rarely fall pray to poor design decisions of 25 years ago. Remember punishing leaps of faith, traps or unfair insta-deaths. Ok, maybe one or two unfair insta-deaths remain, but overall the challenge is tough, but fair. The concept of lives return, but thankfully, you won’t have to start from the very beginning of the game when you run out. Long time fans (old people) will know that hitting an enemy results in Sonic dropping his rings, rather than losing a life. This mechanic was ahead of it’s time and allows for reckless adventure. This generosity supports the games pacing, which is consistency excellent. The slow quiet tempo followed by a crescendo of action, the gaming equivalent of the pixies.
Side Note – Rehashes of Green Hill Zone are nothing new, but soon as that music starts and tentative steps are taken, you know you’re in for a treat. It immediately feels right.
Sonic Mania doesn’t rely on silly gimmicks or wacky power ups. The game’s stripped back to the fundamentals of good design and discovery. Of course, Sonic Mania wallows in its heritage, but it never feels pretentious. This isn’t nostalgia for the sake of it. This feels like a direct sequel to Sonic and Knuckles despite the remixed levels. You’ll get more from the game if you haven’t returned to the originals in some time.
Sonic Mania feels authentic.
Later Sonic games had a thousand and one extra characters to pick from. Who can forget Goebbels the Cat, Pompy Monkey and my personal favourite, Lavender Sonic. Keeping with the nostalgic theme these additional characters are nowhere to be seen. It’s a simple choice between Sonic, Tails and Knuckles. Each style fundamentally changes how you play through the levels, which is nice.
Handy anthropomorphic animal guide: –
Knuckles – is slower and heavier, can dash in the air and climb walls.
Tails – is a bit fucking floaty.
Sonic – is the same as always.
Now this is a weird one to consider, but graphics really matter here. Not in a giant flamboyant way, but in tone and style. I can only imagine how painful it must be to replicate someone else’s work from 25 years ago, much less a system selling mascot. I am happy to report the graphics are flawless and the animations packed full of character. Tiny details bring the world to life, from the worry on Tails face as he dangles close to the edge, to Doctor Robotnik closing the hatch to his nefarious death contraption. It’s not over-animated, nor flashy for the sake of being flashy. It’s just right. There are knowing nods to the past at every turn, which will liven up those “Did you know ever notice these Easter Eggs” lists on hack websites. (“Do you know, what I think I know, about that Sonic Game List” – coming soon. Bet you can’t wait!)
Talking of Doctor Robotnik, the end of level boss battles are somewhat fun. Some better than others… ya know… boss battles. I can’t stand long-winded encounters, but thankfully they never outstay their welcome and there are a few pleasant surprises. I can’t complain.
I was having so much fun ignoring the rest of the human race, I left 2 player mode last. Undocked the split screen is hilariously thin on the Switch, but it just about gets away with it. You may have to squint. In fact, as you’re both hampered, it made for some good trash talk. It works fine and is a welcome extra. Especially on a big telly.
It’s quite common to hear the statement that “sonic was never that good”, but that is a nonsense. The original games are still very playable today. You don’t get to sell entire consoles with an over-hyped disappointment. We can all sit in judgement of the past, as things move on so quickly, but only a fool courting controversial opinions for the sake of an easily manipulated fevered audience, would suggest that the original Sonic games were terrible. What’s the difference between an outraged reader and a vindicated reader? Nothing at all my friend. They are all juicy readers. Just keep clicking.
What a pleasant surprise Sonic Mania is. Blimey… was Sonic really 25 years ago? Are you really that old? Remember Space Hoppers? What about the Game Gear, that was good. That was the first time I owned a Sonic game and here I am, years later playing Sonic on a Nintendo device. Whilst we’re talking Nintendo, the Switch port is fine. There is noticeable lag when taking pictures and turning the machine off, but I barely cared. Technically, everything else is fine. Sonic has become my go-to portable game. Snappy levels and instant gratification make it ideal for sitting on a train or hiding under the bed covers. It works far better then motion-controlled Arms or Splatoon. Yes, I know I can turn the motion-controls off, but I can’t be arsed.
Lastly, and this is important. If you didn’t like Sonic the first time round. The same rings* true today. Sonic Mania won’t change your mind.
This is no fan-made game. Sonic Mania is the real deal. A game made with a deft touch and skill. Short but replayable. Dripping with care and attention.
A wonderful little game at the right price.
*HAH! HE SAID RINGS! SONIC CARRIES RINGS! I GET THAT!
Welcome to The Comfy Armchair
I’ve been thinking a lot about the final score on this one. Why do I feel that it would be disingenuous to bestow a 9 or 10. I mean, I love this game. That much is clear. It’s my review, dammit, I can wear whatever I want and dish out scores willy-nilly. You’re not my dad.
The game’s inventive and bubbling with ideas, but only within the context of a platform game. The same kinda platform game I played 25 years ago. It doesn’t do enough to justify a perfect 10. Despite my obvious bias and the games achievements. Sonic Mania will still be fun to play in 25 years time, but it doesn’t change the world like the first game did.